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Phillies blank Braves to avoid series sweep

ATLANTA -- Cliff Lee, hoping to rebound from a frustrating 2012, did just what was needed to get the Philadelphia Phillies their first victory of the season.

Lee limited the Atlanta Braves to two hits and didn't allow a runner to reach second base as the Phillies salvaged the finale of the season-opening three-game series with a 2-0 victory on a cold and wet Thursday night.

"He was darn good in a tough night to pitch in," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He sure made it look pretty easy."

The Braves had slugged six homers and scored 16 runs in winning the first two games. But Lee completely handcuffed them, striking out eight and walking none. Of his 106 pitches, 78 were strikes.

"Seemed like the last three innings he even got better," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "Quick, command of location, good tempo, good rhythm. He's a good pitcher, man."

The Phillies' runs came in the second inning and were enough to snap a streak of 23 straight victories by the Braves in regular-season games started by Kris Medlen.

Dan Uggla was stranded at first after a two-out single in the second and Justin Upton was eliminated by a double play after a one-out hit in the fourth. Gerald Laird reached on an error by second baseman Chase Utley to lead off the sixth, but Lee retired the next three batters to start a streak of nine straight outs.

"Throw strikes, get ahead in the count and let the defense make plays," Lee said of his success as he moved long working with a lead.

"He got in a good tempo and kept the game moving at his pace," Manuel said. "He had command and control of his game. He took it where he wanted to go."

"First couple innings they made me battle," Lee said. "I threw 40-something pitches the first two innings. To get eight innings after the first two, I was pleased with that."

Jonathan Papelbon pitched the ninth inning and retired the Braves in order for his first save of the season.

Lee didn't get a win until his 14th start on July 4th last season because of a lack of run support and finished 6-9 despite a 3.16 ERA. The Phillies scored just 75 runs in his 30 starts and his 15 no-decisions tied for the most in the National League.

Lee allowed one earned run over 15 innings in two starts against the Braves last season, but was 1-1. He is 4-1 and has allowed just four earned runs over 46 innings in his last six starts against the Braves.

Medlen was 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA in 12 outings after moving into the rotation last year and the Braves hadn't lost a regular-season game since 2010 that he had started. He missed most of the 2011 season because of Tommy John elbow surgery.

Medlen escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first inning by getting Domonic Brown to bounce out, but the Phillies scored twice in the second.

Laynce Nix had a single and Erik Kratz a double to start the inning and Medlen walked Lee to load the bases with no outs. Nix scored on a fielder's choice and Kratz on Utley's sacrifice fly.

Laboring with his command, Medlen needed 27 pitches in the first inning, 22 more in the second and 83 through four innings. But the Phillies left a runner on in the third and two more in the fourth before Medlen finally had a 1-2-3 inning in the fifth.

Medlen allowed six hits, walked four and struck out three in his five innings, needing 92 pitches.

"His delivery got better as the game went on," Gonzalez said. "He competed his butt off and kept us in the game."

"I was rushing things and I was able to make some adjustments," Medlen said. "I never would have thought I'd make it through five innings the way I was pitching in the first inning."

The heaviest rain stopped prior to the game, but the temperature at first pitch was 41 degrees in a light mist and the wind-chill made it feel like 35 degrees.

"It was one of those raw games we rarely get here in Atlanta," Gonzalez said.

"Obviously it wasn't ideal conditions, but Cliff Lee pitched great in it," Medlen said.

NOTES: Braves right fielder Jason Heyward received his Rawlings Gold Glove in a pregame ceremony and then robbed Ben Revere of extra bases with a diving catch to end the Phillies' sixth inning. ... The Phillies play their home opener Friday, facing Kansas City in an interleague series that is a rematch of the 1980 World Series. Right-hander Kyle Kendrick will pitch for the Phillies against right-hander Wade Davis, who is making his debut with the Royals. ... Shortstop Jimmy Rollins played in his 1,795th game, passing Richie Asburn and moving into second place by himself on the Phillies' all-time list. He needs to play in 610 more games in a Phillies uniform to pass Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt for the record. ... CF B.J. Upton had struck out six straight times before bouncing out in his second at-bat against Lee. But he struck out in his final at-bat and is 0 for 11 with seven strikeouts as a Brave. ... Medlen had given up 14 hits and nine runs to the Phillies in a Grapefruit League game on March 18. He finished spring training with a 7.23 ERA in five outings.